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When the recession derailed Suzanne Coker Craig’s advocacy career, she and her husband started a Pinetops business as a stopgap. While CuriosiTees flourished, she longed to get back to her roots.
“We thought we would do shirts for church groups or the tractor pull with the fire department, but it turned into a full-time business,” Craig said. “Particularly in the last six months or so, I have known it wasn’t my true calling, so I started looking for something else that would use my professional background and skills. The business is doing fine and I love Pinetops, so I didn’t want to shut the business down.”
She found the posting for a new Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity executive director on Indeed and applied. The 57-year-old woman said she’s donated to Habitat for Humanity for years and was eager to support the work in a more substantial way in eastern North Carolina.
“Affordable, safe housing is important to any area,” she said. “It is important to have good housing, and Habitat does a fantastic job of not being just a hand out, but being a hand up. The people who earn their Habitat houses really work for it. They make monthly payments toward the mortgage, but they’ve also put time and hard work into these houses themselves through the sweat equity.”
She took the reins on June 3 from Elisabeth Farnsworth, who resigned in May to take a marketing job in Rocky Mount.
“The Habitat board welcomes Ms. Coker Craig and stands ready to help build this new era for our organization,” said board chairwoman Marla Parker.
Craig brings a wealth of experience to the position. She earned a master’s degree in public administration while leading the N.C. Hospital Association’s advocacy programs, but when the economy took a downturn, Craig was laid off after 18 years. While growing CuriosiTees, Craig served for eight years as a Pinetops commissioner where she advocated for the town’s high speed internet through Greenlight Community Broadband. She testified before a congressional subcommittee on rural internet access and spoke at national conferences about Pinetops’ fight.
“The Whirligig Park is one of my favorite parks in the world. I love that place, and I think there are just so many positive things going on here, so my goal is to build on that,” Craig said. “I want to reach out to the local churches, small businesses and corporations and rally support for Habitat because there is something for everyone to do in this mission.”
While financial support is always appreciated, Craig noted donations of merchandise for the ReStore at 626 Ward Blvd. or volunteering a few hours are equally important. Even a prayer for the organization and clients is helpful, she said.
“I also really want to focus on grant opportunities,” she said. “From my understanding, previous directors haven’t had the time to do that, and it is tough to find the time, but I think it is important for us to grow and follow through on our mission to provide affordable housing for people who need it.”
The local organization currently is building one house and plans to break ground on a second house in the fall. Craig said she wants to continue the momentum, and support from the community is essential.
“I know in eastern North Carolina, a lot of our areas are struggling economically, so there are a lot of people who need affordable housing and Habitat works to fill that void,” she said.
Visit wilsonhabitat.org/ to learn more, volunteer or donate.